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White Paint. It is STILL not the answer: Please don’t paint your mid-century woodwork

30 min read Today’s episode is going to be a love story to the wooden elements of a mid-century home. The main takeaway? Leave your original mid-century wood alone.

White paint on original mid-century wood work? Well, that depends.  But in a well planned mid mod update the answer is almost ALWAYS … no!

Why you should NOT paint mid-century wood

If you have unpainted original wood in your home, set the paint brush down and step away.

You and future occupants of your home will thank you.

That wood is precious – a non-renewable resource

Because the wood you have in your mid-century home is higher quality than anything you can buy today. It is irreplaceable and special. And there are better ways to work with your original materials rather than covering them up. 

Mid-century wood work makes you happier

People like to call this a new innovation. Biophilic design (or the design toward the love of living things) is a hot topic in workplace wellness. But really this is also just good old common sense. People don’t want to live in white drywall boxes. We like seeing trees out the window and wood grain inside the house!

Studies have even found that workers report more productivity and happiness when they can see wood furniture and building components in their office spaces. You may not be worried about the profit margins of productivity in your home … but wouldn’t you rather be happier, too!

Removing white paint after it’s been put on is NOT easy!

While it isn’t impossible to get white paint of woodwork the way it is to remove it from brick and natural stone … it’s not easy.

Rather than TELL you that I’m going to use the hard won labor of @1957housedownsouth to demonstrate both how lovely wood panel can be, how blah it looks when covered in white paint and … how much work is involved in turning the clock back!

Check out the many steps involved in the process of restoring this bland weird band room into a gorgeous wood paneled guest room it was meant to be in this reel if you need further proof. Also it’s just a GREAT instagram account to follow.

White paint can’t make it better … just different

In so many cases, the reason previously untouched mid-century materials like stone, brick or wood get covered in white paint is for the powerful punch of a before after photo. Specifically a before photo taken with some clutter in the room and poor lighting on a cloudy day, paired with an after photo in bright sun with a few off-camera supplemental lights. 

But that’s not our kind of transformation.

You’re trying to make changes to your home that will help it suit your life better … not just make for high drama before/after photo!

Repurposing a storage room into a cozy den or from a den into a much needed office in order for your home to work better are transformations that are more our speed.

Creating a spot where the family gathers to watch and talk films on Friday pizza night.

Adjusting the layout of your kitchen so that it goes from a cooking center to a social hub that is making a house into the home that you’ve dreamed of. 

These are all changes that matter.

The changes you plan MAY mean removing and repurposing some mid-century paneling. It could mean installing lighter floors or painting the ceiling. (Yes, you may paint the ceiling and any other drywall white!) 

The same goes for your unpainted trim and unpainted built-ins. Explore other strategies to brighten a space that you need brighter or to freshen up a space that feels tired. 

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • Why paneling is not the place for paint – white or otherwise.  
  • How mid-century hollow core doors are different than their modern cousins. 
  • Where paint can be great! 

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Read the Full Episode Transcript

So here we are with part two of things in a mid-century house, you should never paint white. I started to talk about this last week, and ended up having so much to say, because there are so many different parts of your house that HGTV wants you to fix by slapping a coat of white paint on. And so many reasons why those spots are better off left alone, that it had to become a two part series.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m saying white paint is bad. A white wall can be a lovely thing. And I don’t want you to feel like it’s not possible for you to get some quick satisfaction, some instantaneous results to change or improve a room. But white paint is not the answer for that problem. So today’s episode is going to be a love story to the wooden elements of a mid-century home.

And I hope it’s going to leave you feeling excited about these parts of your home and empowered to work with them to make them a feature, not a bug in your design plans. Hopefully, you actually found some of these things charming when you chose your home. So if you’ve ever actually wondered, Am I wrong to like this door? Am I a fool for enjoying the amber Shellac on my cabinet doors, or the subtle grain of my trim when everyone around me is telling me I should paint them white or take that trim off and replace it with something more farmhouse or remove those doors and put in some fancy six panels or something? No, you’re not wrong.

Leave your original mid-century wood alone, and you’ll be better off in the long run. And so will your house. So let’s get into it. Hey there, welcome back to mid mod remodel. This is the show about updating MCM homes to helping you add your mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host Della Hansmann architect and mid-century ranch mid-century woodwork, mid-century brick stone and concrete enthusiast, you’re listening to Episode 1612.

Now why do people slap a coat of white paint on things part of it is because they’ve been told to we’ll get into that. But sometimes you’ve just been living with a room in a certain mode for a long time. And it gets to the place where you can’t stand it anymore, and you need to make a change. It’s such a natural impulse to reach for a paintbrush in that moment. And if you’re applying the paint in the right spot, I absolutely endorse that feeling. But if you’re what you’re hoping for is to effect a quick satisfying, not a lot of thought required improvement in your home, then painting something you can’t easily unpainted is not the right move, it should stress you out to choose to put paint on something that’s never before been painted.

And if it doesn’t, that just means you haven’t learned the lesson of how challenging it can be to remove paint from a surface. So you don’t want stress involved in a quick satisfaction move. You want something that’s going to feel easy, fun light, to break up that impasse, to get the inertia moving to shift into action mode on some part of changing your house. And to that end, I actually have an entire guide of quick satisfying, almost instantaneous and relatively inexpensive home improvement projects.

You know, the kind of thing you can conquer in a day on a weekend, the kind of thing you can plan over a couple of coffee breaks, and then set into motion with one quick burst of energy. That kind of quick satisfying change is easier to do when you put in some decisions, but you build them off of a basic recipe, which is why I call the resource I made for this the mid-century room recipe.

If you’re feeling like HGTV has been whispering in your ear, why don’t you just paint that wall white, hold off, stick a pin in that impulse. And instead try a one two, a 123 punch of other easy improvements you can make in or around any part of your house and see if that doesn’t do the trick for you. If you then want to do more than that. I’ve got other resources for you.

You might try our short course masterplan in a month, you might decide to really get the ball rolling and join us inside of ready to remodel, you might just decide to hire us get in touch with mid Midwest and have us create an entire master plan for your home. But let’s start small, start satisfying and grab my free mid-century room recipe as you probably guessed it, mid mod dash midwest.com/room recipe.

Of course, you can get all the rest of the show notes the transcript of this episode and any other important links, a couple of good Instagram accounts you should follow by the way at mid mod dash midwest.com/ 1612.

So just as we did last week, I want to frame this question of should I or should I not paint that thing white? In the question of who was telling me this? And why did they want me to believe it? That is the journalist adage I learned from my mother’s knee.

But let’s update it for us amid mod home updaters adage should probably be who is showing me this and why do they want me to see it? What are they selling me? What are they trying to impress me with? What is their goal in the photo the image the video that they’re showing me of the change they’ve made to a mid-century home?

In so many cases. The reason why a previously untouched mid-century material like stone brick black or wood gets covered in white paint is for the power punch of a before after photo. Specifically a before photo taken with some clutter in the room and poor lighting on a cloudy day paired with an after photo and bright sun with a few off camera stuff Mental lights. And the brightness slider on the photographer’s iPhone slid all the way to the right to blow out details and make the photo seem as different from the original as possible.

Now, that kind of blown out white photo looks great on an influencers, Instagram feed. And the big contrast between before and after looks striking in a magazine article. But what is the real improvement? What does it say about the designer? Or the self taught home improver? Who did that? What does it mean for the person who’s going to live in this space? So we’ll get into this more in a minute. But I just want you to always remember when you see these dramatic painted white moments shown on HGTV, or in a magazine or in an Instagram account, what is the goal of that change? And is it really linked at all to making the house better, making it suit the person who lives there.

So we already talked about stone, brick and concrete in last week’s episode of Don’t paint it white. In this episode, we’re going to focus on wood. And the short short version is, don’t paint your mid-century wood work white. That’s it. That’s the tweet. Great episode, Della, thanks. Okay. I’m gonna get into more detail in a minute.

But the caveat I wanted to also throw in here at the top is, if it has been painted in the past, sometimes there’s not a lot you can do about that. I would recommend trying to strip that paint off and get it back to its original plain wood and then refinish it, stain it, seal it again. This is a lot of work. And we’re going to talk about that. This is why you don’t paint it in the first place. But if it’s already been painted in the past, and you don’t have the energy to return it to its original state now, then you can go ahead and paint it again to your own favorite color.

In cases where the wood casing around trim the trim around windows doors, the edge of the floor has already been painted, I do recommend that you choose to paint it the same color as you choose for your walls. Rather than the more cottage style ideal of a bold wall color with white trim. You want to help that sad feeling of the original woodwork being painted over go away by creating a very minimalist effect of one color for trim walls and anything else that’s painted around the house.

But the ideal is to maintain the original wood and stain color the grain pattern that keeps your eye moving around the warmth of the amber Shellac toned mid-century stain colors is always our absolute goal in a mid-century finish, whether it’s original, or whether we’re recreating that in the house. So let’s go type of wood area by type of wood area and talk about how they work and why we don’t want to paint them white.

I’m going to start with paneling. Now, again, I’m organizing this list and kind of degrees of difficulty of undoing what someone else might want to someone else might want to undo what you’ve done you yourself might want to undo what you’ve done if you were to apply paint to the surface. And I’m also ranking these in terms of the the slickness the speediness by which a home improver, a DIY channel on YouTube or an HGTV flipping show will instantly recommend that the very first thing you do before you’ve moved into the house, as you walk through it with a realtor, they’ll look at any room with wood paneling on the walls and say, Oh, you can make this brighter with a coat of white paint.

And that is such an easy thing to say. It’s a relatively easy thing to do with a roller tray and a roller extender and some good tunes on Spotify or a great podcast. Hopefully not this one. Please never listen to this podcast while you paint white on wood paneling. You can take a room from warm, cozy wood paneling that’s been on the walls for seven years to bright light and relatively lighter in a matter of hours. To change it back is not a matter of hours. And we’ll talk about that in a moment.

But that urge to brighten, and we’ve talked about this earlier in the season, it’s one of the biggest impulses to put your stamp on the house to refresh it to update it to make it your own that is perpetuated by home and gardening television and the various media outlets and siblings that share its ethos. But in my mind, it is exactly the wrong kind of personal stamp to put on a house. You really do need to make your new house your home and we’ve talked about this a couple of episodes you can change your home and change your whole life. But that meaningful change comes from addressing what will make it uniquely yours. A new kitchen countertop can be satisfying, but it doesn’t make the house uniquely yours. 

Repurposing a room that was used as junk storage meant you into a cozy den or from a den into an office or a place where the place that had been in office into the spot where the family gathers and watches and talks about films and has a tradition of Friday pizza night. These are all changes that matter. Adjusting the layout of your kitchen so that it goes from a cooking center to a social hub where your kids your friends, your once kids can all hang out together for Saturday afternoon game day, that is making a house into a home that you have dreamed of.

Splashing a coat of white paint onto a wood panel looks dramatic, but it doesn’t really change the purpose of the space. And usually, that kind of change that kind of do it before you move in and just make this change, I recommend it universally Change is never going to be really personal to you and what you need from your house.

I never hear anyone in this context say, what was this room used for before? Why did they originally choose a warm dark wood paneling? And what will its new use be? Why does it need to be bright white, it’s just a style question just splash white paint on the walls. But actually, that completely discounts the meaning of dark and light in our homes. The color, the richness, materiality, and those wood paneled walls, they were and by this, I even mean those 60s era sort of Luan faux wood walls, they are a better quality than you can get at Home Depot today, certainly, and they have a real effect.

If you have a knotty pine wall, or any kind of real wood wall, it is having an intended purpose. And that purpose still has value today. There has been a lot of research on the fact that we live very tech oriented screen oriented lives, and that there are measured effects that humans who are exposed to more natural materials, organic materials, wood grain being Key among those feel happier report a better sense of wellness breathe more deeply.

So being around woodgrain doesn’t count if you can’t see the grain if you’ve covered it up in white paint. So in the last episode, I talked about how that impulse to splash a coat of white paint on it by the designer is kind of a lazy move, it overwrites the original material palette, particularly people can be afraid to work with a particular color of brick or with stone, they want to just start from white start from scratch and impose their own material palette on it. But it’s also a move that’s made not just because a designer might be afraid to work with the original material, but because they are going for their own portfolio more than they are going for the experience of the people they’re working for.

So from a designer’s portfolio point of view, that contrast between what it was before, and then bringing in not just the white paint on the walls, but the lighting equipment really brightening up the photoshoot on the day, kind of blurring the boundary between the wall and the ceiling. So you can make the space feel higher as an optical illusion. All of these things serve to let a designer make a really beautiful image on their website. But those carefully curated photos, which may even be implying that they have cutting more openings in the wall, that they’ve improved the size of the windows or added a skylight.

That could just be the effect of light bounced around the room from a few key off camera added light fixtures, it doesn’t actually mean that you have created a California Eichler wall of glass, it doesn’t actually mean that you’ve increased the light level in the room at all. So it gives you a fake photo effect of a room that has more natural light, but doesn’t actually put more natural light into the room. And it also has that transformative contrast of the before after photo, which again, I don’t necessarily want to as a professional, impose myself on a space just for the sake of it.

And I’m not really impressed by someone who’s made a huge transformation in a space, what I want to see is that the result is good. Not that it’s a change, but that it’s good that it’s perhaps transformed, but perhaps just tweaked. Because the before and after photo is meaningless to the people who live in the house after the photo after the before two photo was taken. We don’t live in a science fiction movie where we flash back and forth in two different moments in time. We exist in the house and its current state.

So making a dramatic change doesn’t really benefit anyone but the person who wants to talk about what changes they made. So anyway, those things painting, white for a big dramatic change are just one reason why I find the whole concept of splash a coat of white paint on it to be pretty suspect. So that’s why a designer is recommending potentially is recommending to you that’s why they’re showing you projects where they put white paint on previously woodgrain surfaces, walls specifically, let’s talk about why you might want to or actually might not want to paint a room white that had been paneling before.

You might want to paint a paneled room white because the room feels dark to you. And that can happen. We as humans are heliotrope-ish we like light we like daylight we like bright light. It helps us feel awake during the kind of day. And a room that feels dark during the daytime can be oppressive can feel dingy can depress us, but it can also be that the room is just lacking a few features right now. So I have a lot of things that I would say to a client That is asking me about painting the paneling in a room. For one thing, painted paneling, is always going to feel like a bit of an aftermarket fix. So if I come to a place where the client is really set on having a room that was paneled, become a bright, bright room, I would recommend they remove the paneling and install drywall and paint that white. Then as a bonus, we might reuse that paneling somewhere else, perhaps in their own house, or perhaps just drop it off at restore.

But here’s what I was saying before about what is the value of paneling in that room, perhaps you’re changing the meaning of a room, perhaps it’s going from Den to Office or Office to Den, and you no longer want to use it the way the purpose previous person did, you now no longer need that room to be cozy and closed, settled down calming darker, you want that room to be brighter. But there might be another place if you’re taking a room from one function to another you might be switching, you need adjacency you need the social bright, happy space to be closer to the kitchen and a quiet calm den to be somewhere else.

And so you can take the panel that exists on the walls in one part of the house and move it somewhere else. You’ll never really get a one to one conversion rate, you can’t take an equal value of existing mid-century paneling and put it on the walls and cover the same amount. Because there are holes cut out for light switches and outlets and whatnot, you can get a pretty good conversion rate, maybe 75% of the previous era area. So take that paneling that was original to your home and apply it somewhere else salvage and repurpose it. And this can really help you keep that I’m surrounded by natural materials, I have original mid-century wood in my house, the warm the cozy the woodgrain somewhere else where you actually need it.

Now there’s also the question of if you’re worried about a room that has paneling in it. And it almost feels like it works, but it just feels a little bit too dark. There are a lot of other things you can do to mitigate the darkness. A lot of people when they’re walking through a space with a realtor are advised well, you can just paint that white to fix it. But you could actually change a dozen other things about the space before you do that. And I would recommend that you first think about what are the Surface materials on the floor and ceiling. If either of them is dingy or needs a refresh, I would deal with that.

First, I would take off any wild boar copper that’s on the floor. If the ceiling is already white, I would give it a fresh coat of white paint. It can be dingy could use a refreshed bounce more light. It could be the floor is covered in a light material already, but you need more daylight in the room, you might choose to cut a few openings in that panel and add more windows, you might add skylights or think about a light tube. You could also think about artificial light. Many mid-century homes don’t come with a lot of wired in lights. And that’s maybe the subject of an entire other episode. It has a lot of reasons one of which is cheapness and efficiency.

But also because in the mid-century, people really love to decorate with plug in lights. So you can bring in your own modern or vintage plug in lights to bring in and tune the light reading of a room, a pole light, pendant light, a series of reading lights, wall sconce lights, these all allow you to change the feeling of the room and different seasons different times of day for different purposes without giving up and sacrificing that wonderful warmth of a wood paneled wall. So the bottom line is when you have a wood paneled wall that’s making you feel a little too dark. don’t solve that problem with a can of paint saw that with light.

Alright, now I want to talk about why I’m putting the subject first. The fact that to paint a paneled wall is a very hard thing to unpaint. And I want to highlight a project of someone else a lovely Instagram account that I have been admiring since it popped up in my feed. The account is 1957 house down south. And these folks have there’s a lot of things to love in their feed. They have a home with a lot of great mid-century character and they have been lovingly bringing back step by step even more of its fantastic original features over time than were shown in the house when they bought it.

And one fun fact unrelated to painting panels is that they recently discovered by looking at some photos of the previous owner, that what they thought were sort of odd shaped canned lights set in the ceiling along the side of their dining room, were actually pulled down bullet shaped directional lights to highlight wall art that could then be pushed up into the ceiling or pulled back down and adjusted to different angles. And they just been pushed flush and left alone. They were able to reach up into an old candlelight pull it down and get this amazing, cool, dramatic mid-century feature to appear in their house with almost no effort.

A little more effort is going to be involved in the fact that they now suspect that there are several more of these lights hiding around the house underneath the drywall on the ceiling that a previous remodel just covered up. So that’s an excavation project for the future. But one much more labor intensive thing they’d been doing is slowly removing the paint from what was being used as a sort of an awkwardly large guest bedroom by the previous owner. It had original wood walls that had been slapped. I think it wasn’t even white. It was beige and had what wall to wall white carpet and it was decorated with sort of a bland world map on the wall. You can see it in the Zillow listing photos.

And you could tell the room, of course, was painted paneling, because painted paneling doesn’t look like drywall. It looks like an aftermarket finish. It doesn’t ever actually look great. So they wanted their wood paneling back. They appreciate that original feature. And they have been carefully stripping with chemicals and sanding and removing the paint from the paneling carefully going into the grooves getting it out of every little dip in the grain. Also getting the trim.

It has been gorgeously transformative. It has been incredibly labor intensive. But they’ve now been rewarded by finding a bunch of other things when they pulled up the wall to wall carpet. Nobody wants the previous owners wall to wall carpet, it’s not a good idea, even if you install it fresh, but they found some marks on the floor that indicated there had once been a planter divider in the room and a built in desk both of which they’re now planning to also recreate. So these are super cool ideas that got carelessly removed and then the evidence of there being there ever, ever having been there wiped away and paint slapped on the paneling in this quote unquote update.

So I encourage you to go over to their Instagram account 1957 house down south and appreciate the we can almost call it the after before photo the contrast between those sort of incredibly banal beige paint and the gorgeous wood work they have now, but this work has not been easy, and that is the bottom line. It is not it’s so much easier to paint wood paneling that it is to unpainted and it’s easier to unpack paneling than it is to unpainted brick or stone or concrete. But don’t I just don’t recommend it. Don’t set yourself up for someone else in the future to have to undo this work because it is not just a matter of edit, undo.

So if you missed me saying it before, let me just underline again, think about what everyone will be used for. And if you don’t like how light or dark the room rates right now because of paneling. contemplate what other design levers you can pull first to give it the brightness, the openness the airiness that you want. Or to improve on the coziness the warmth, the enclosure, the wood paneling, while also bringing in the other features you need.

So if you want to room to have white walls, you can do that. But I encourage you to remove the existing paneling first put in new drywall and paint it white. The added benefit of doing that is when you take off paneling, you’re going to have the opportunity to check on your wiring to improve insulation to find out what’s going on behind your walls. I just encourage you not to slap coats of white onto paneling. If you remove it in its current status, someone else may be able to salvage and repurpose it. But if you throw away or try to Facebook freecycle painted paneling, the odds are it’s gonna go straight into a dumpster. All right, so that was planning on paneling.

A few more things that I have to say about not painting wood. Let’s talk about your original mid-century built hands. You won’t be surprised that I’m going to tell you I strongly prefer that you do not paint your image in original mid-century woodwork and built ins white. But actually before we do that, are in addition to that, I’m going to use a couple of counter examples. Here are some situations where I myself or someone else have put paint onto wooden buildings in my bathroom. I have painted the vanity built in.

Now the caveat is it’s not original. That’s because I’m 98% sure that this bathroom didn’t have a vanity cabinet when the house was built, I think it had a wall mounted sink or one that stood on little mental metal feet that would have been common for a 1952 modest contractor grade ranch. It did have vented cabinet installed by the previous owner. In the 90s. He made several modifications to my mid-century bathroom which is no longer particularly mid-century. For one thing he replaced the original toilet which was was probably blue to match the tub with an old man toilet a power flush device in the tank that made it sound like a jet taking off and an elevated seat for handy accessibility. No judgement it worked for them, but I didn’t need it or like it.

So the first thing I did was to replace that with not a vintage toilet unfortunately but a modern toto dual flush skirted toilet, which is my favorite of the modern updates for bathrooms. clean, simple, doesn’t use a lot of water, very quiet. My favorite, not what we’re talking about here. So the other thing is I was making quick fixes. I didn’t have a lot of time or energy and I just did not have the wherewithal to replace the Home Depot standard bathroom vanity that had its functional. It does its job but it is ugly. It had a dark oak stain and overly ornate cabinet faces and it not love any part of it because it sticks out too far into the room and overwhelms the scale. So what I did was to make it appear smaller by painting the wall behind it dark gray. Yeah, hi, I’m a millennial, I like dark gray. And I can paint my walls dark gray if I want to, because anyone else can paint them any other color later if they want to walls are easy to repaint.

And then I painted the vanity, the exact same color, same sheen and everything just to let it blend into the background. Now it’s not going to make it completely invisible. My eyes still sees the vanity, but it does let me sort of scan past it and interpret it as more meaningless noise. The shape of it isn’t as important as the other things in the room that have a color contrast. And this is why we tend to paint woodwork a color to help it blend but mid-century would work shouldn’t lend it should stand out. You want your built hands to look like they are something special because they were you want them to catch your eye and be the feature in the room. Not something that you try to make go away because it’s an ugly Home Depot standard vanity.

The other thing that stands out so much it’s in wood paneling for the mid-century, it’s from built into the mid-century is the pattern the detailing the subtlety of the grain of mid-century woodwork. And so the other example I’m going to do to talk about why your mid-century buildings are great is to give you the example of a choice made by a friend of mine interior designer Jessica Lukey. of city looking at design. Now she works on homes in Boise, Idaho and often collaborates with mid-century homes in Boise. She has a beautiful eye for mid-century updates and upgrades that keep the spirit of the house intact. And when possible pieces of the original house intact. So I want to highlight a project.

I’ll link to it in the show notes, where she had to make some choices for a mid-century kitchen where the original base cabinets had all been badly water damaged, that couldn’t be salvaged. But since she didn’t really want to change the layout in this particular project, she did want to put in modern appliances, but hoped to keep that vital mid-century spirit alive. When she looked closer, she realized that the upper cabinets in the kitchen were still in reasonably good shape, they just needed some love. So she engaged a local cabinet company to recreate modern but very similar looking base cabinets to match the uppers. And then kept the uppers in place re stained and restored to their original green color.

So the thing is, though, that even done very nicely modern wood grain is not the equal of original wood grain, it would have been discernible to the eye if she was trying to perfectly match that beautiful warm wood grain on the upper cabinets to the new replacement wood grain on the lower. So she decided instead to have a perfect match of the door profile the shape of the door, and then have the base cabinets painted in the pop color, which was the favorite color of the homeowners. The result is a really interesting choice, by the way, know that she did not paint those base cabinets a safe white blend into the wall, she gave them a bold 1960s Color Pop. So that they kind of do the same thing as the woodgrain.

Above, they really show their shape. It looks fantastic. And it really stands out. It doesn’t cause your eye to skip over those cabinets, it calls your eye to them in the same way that the woodgrain on the original upper cabinets above. Hey, I’m pretty look at me. So we get the best of both worlds, we get the color on the cabinets at the base and the woodgrain for that complexity that keeps your eye moving around at the top. It’s so delightful to our human experience of the space. And it’s a fun story about what’s original and what’s new in the house. So what’s the lesson there, if you have some wood that’s original to your mid-century house, and you’re able to keep it where it is or move it from one part of the house to another. This is a wonderful way to highlight those features of house and keep a story alive that you can tell.

One more example of that is in an early masterplan project that I took on. We had an original wood kitchen that had a classically to closed off to dark to one person oriented layout that just was not going to work for the new homeowners. We ended up completely reconfiguring that kitchen which of course meant new cabinets, and for budget reasons. And because the homeowner really liked white, we ended up going with white painted cabinets throughout that kitchen. It looks really nice and we were able to bring wood into the place in other areas and a few subtle details and actually also to keep some of the original stone fireplace back is exposed in that kitchen.

So we’ve got a lot of texture and pattern going on in there anyway. But we were also able to salvage the cabinet bases from some parts of the kitchen and transfer them into the upper bathroom where a previous remodel had removed the original bath vanities and we were able to use kitchen cabinet bases as a replacement for the replacement bath vanities to bring back or preserve the original mid-century woodwork of the house and a new spot and again a story to tell they needed to change the layout of their kitchen that meant they were going to be Doing new cabinets. But they were able to keep some that woodwork alive and really keep the glowing the warmth the happiness that you get from original mid-century wood. I have just a few more areas of wood in a mid-century house to not paint to elaborate on.

Let’s talk about flat slab doors. This is the most common type of door and a mid-century house. And part of the beauty of mid-century design is in its simplicity, these are very simple shapes, a very simple rectangle, not an extra detail on them. The shapes of flat panels have a little perhaps a little curved edge. A kitchen set of built ends with a very minimalistic or subtle curve around the edge of a slab door and the flat panel doors inside of each door opening.

The beauty of these pieces is that simplicity isn’t boring or bland when it’s paired with materiality that is rich and complex. So the slab doors and cabinets and the plywood hollow core doors that are standard in early mid-century houses are still very beautiful objects. As long as we can still appreciate the detail in their wood grain, that dense pine ring growth which came out of old growth forests, which do not exist anymore because they have been cut down and turned into two by fours and built ins and slab hollow core doors in our mid-century homes. So you know that phrase, these aren’t your mother’s hollow corridors. They’re not. These are your grandmother’s hollow corridors.

They are vintage. They are special. They are actually very solidly constructed, even though yes, technically they are hollow and they’re very good quality doors. So please don’t paint them white, because when they’re painted white, you can’t tell the difference between your grandmother’s hollow corridor and the Home Depot standard that you get today at a big box store which is not it’s equal in quality. So please, this is one of my very favorite things to find in an original mid-century house. If you have white painted slab doors in a mid-century house, this is worth the effort to think about stripping and re staining. It may very well be worth it.

If you see your neighbor tossing out unfinished or original stained or painted slab doors it might be worth salvaging them because you know you might have damage to one in your house. Sometimes people hide damage with paint but love your mid-century slab panel doors preserve and protect your hollow corridors. They’re not cheap, I promise you they are a feature not a bug of a mid-century house. Alright, one last topic. Do not paint the trim around your mid-century doors, your windows or your baseboard. Just Say No, I know why am I quoting Nancy Reagan. But I mean it I put this one last on the list. Because we’ve talked a lot I may be running out of steam. And also because this might be the area where you could hypothetically, most easily roll back a previous person’s or your own decision to paint that original woodwork.

You could pry the trim or baseboard off the wall, take it to your backyard in the summer, or your basement workshop, get the paint stripper and the sandpaper and carefully bring them back to the original, then stain them and reinstall them on the walls. That would probably be easier than doing in place ergonomically and also logistically and from a chemical smell control perspective. But if all that sounds like a whole heck of a lot of work. That’s because it is that’s a lot of work. So that’s why I have been telling you please don’t paint anything that has not been painted before. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate any original woodwork that is still in your mid-century home today. And use the opportunity to pick that up and run with it to choose furniture that has a similar stain and grain to find new pieces that you’re going to put in a new panel that you can add to the wall the new built ins for your kitchen, new vanity for the bathroom new storage elements in their bedroom, and pick up the original mid-century details that you can find to match and speak to and be friends with in your house.

When all is said and done, you will never regret leaving original mid-century wood intact. And while it might feel satisfactory or impulsively, like a big change to paint white over what had once never been painted before. I do believe that if you stick with your mid-century home, if you live in it for long enough, you will find yourself regretting that choice. So allow me to advise you against remodelers regret and encourage you for yourself and to encourage anyone else who doesn’t listen to this podcast to please do not paint Mid-century woodwork.

This week’s Pep Talk is less about specific design move to make your Mid-century home and more about just breaking the inertia to get yourself started. Whatever is holding you back, I want you to just take a breath and know that you don’t have to have it all figured out in order to begin and you don’t have to have all of your ducks visibly in a row before you reach out to me, or to anyone else about making changes to your home, I often hear from people that they’re holding back on during the process of working with us on sending the documentation photos of their house to us to my team at Midwest because they haven’t cleaned the house properly yet.

And just this past weekend, I’m not going to name check you. But I had a wonderful meeting with a really lovely couple who are friends of a friend of mine. And they wanted to show me their house and talk about what it might be like to work with a master plan. And I know that they had done, I could appreciate the lovely cleaning effect they’ve done. And they shared that they had hesitated to reach out the past because they didn’t feel like they’d gotten it already, and that the house wasn’t ready to be photographed.

Here’s the thing, though. I know I’m a homeowner myself, I don’t want to have people over if my house is cluttered. But when you’re asking a design professional to help you think about how to make changes to your home. Honestly, a little clutter isn’t a bad thing. It’s going to tell that person, this is a trouble spot. This is an area that needs more storage, this is an area where the house isn’t suiting the people that live here, no one kind no one you actually want to work with, I will not will ever judge you for the state of your house when you’re asking for help with your house.

So, of course, I can’t tell you yes, you know, like, have the kids throw every toy on the floor and then invite the designer to come over. That’s you know, that’s not what I’m saying here. But don’t feel like you have to first have solved the problem of living in your house by achieving a magical clutter free state in order to either take pictures, or invite me or another designer or a contractor to come walk through the space for you.

You’re asking for help. Because right now, it’s not working perfectly. And if there’s a little bit of clutter, or a little bit of mess, or you’re feeling a little stressed by at all, that’s a symptom of the fact that your house needs help. And so to you, not a fault in your own personality or character or a symptom of your not readiness to begin. In fact, it’s the opposite. A little bit of clutter in places that are driving you nuts is something you want to point out to the designer, stuff always accumulates here help me that you can tell me that even if it’s a clutter free surface, but I believe you more if I see the clutter.

So the pep talk theme, I guess is don’t let not having your house be perfectly holiday in laws ready, hold you back from reaching out for help from a professional whose job is to help you make your house work better for you. And that’s yeah, that’s just what I want you to know. If that’s what’s been holding you back from reaching out to me about Midwest or to whatever other person that you’ve got your eye on, then I want you to encourage you to just get started, reach out, send the form, say hello, shoot off the DM and get the ball rolling on making changes to the house that will help you organically reduce clutter.

Now, no promises. No remodel will ever create a perfectly clutter free life. But we can actually address some of those places where things just sort of drift up because there isn’t a right place to put them away with design. And that’s the point of it. Speaking of design being the point of it. My quick fix solution for this week is matched to the theme I was talking about earlier in the episode of why I don’t recommend you paint a room with wood panel white. But you can do something even easier than getting out the roller and putting in a cup of paint, which is to think about how to change the color reading and the light to dark value of a room with an area rug.

Particularly people often decide that they want to paint some wooden part of a mid-century house because they’re worried that there’s too much wood. The floor is wood the trim is wood the walls are wood they freak out. I can’t live in a cabin. I would argue that there’s a big difference between a mid-century panel wall and a log cabin. If you feel like there’s too much wood around the very easiest thing you can do is cover up some of the wood that’s on the floor with an area rug and that is going to be a surface that is comfortable is pleasant underfoot helps you define the space perhaps divide a larger room into two smaller a sitting area and a play area helps make a smaller room feel bigger contrastingly by putting a color pop on the floor helps anchor your French replacements.

And is something that you can take out of the house seasonally and have cleaned that you can change your mind about over time you could donate and get a new one. You can even have you know if you wanted to you could have seasonal rugs a thicker plush or one for winter and a thinner catches dirt and is easy to clean one for summer. But putting a rug into a space is even easier than reaching for a coat of paint.

So this is true whether you’re trying to change the color reading of a bedroom, a living room a den a hallway but whenever you feel like there’s oppressively too much room in the what? What in the room in the wood. The very first thing I would say is don’t read for paint brush. Look for some fun you can have with area rugs and this can be a place where as long as it’s relatively washable, you can go for light Color. And it’s a really interesting way to bring contrast and sometimes even texture to a room. That is more fun than making a formerly powered wall paneled wall look like not a wall, but a painted panel wall, which is nobody’s number one design choice.

By the way, this is an idea ripped from the headlines of my mid-century room recipe. So if you’re looking for one to three easy ideas to improve any room to up its mid-century charm and just make it more satisfying, more aesthetically pleasing to instantly an area rug is always a good place to start.

Next week on the podcast, we are wrapping up our anti HGTV season, and I decided to bring it out with maybe a contrasting message. The silver lining of watching this kind of show of reading this kind of magazine, which is what we can learn from looking at other people’s mid-century homes. Some of those lessons might be what not to do.

But there is a benefit to closely studying other people’s homes. It’s more than recreational to just look at the video camera panning across someone else’s beautiful living room, kitchen, bedroom or view. And let’s talk about how we can make the most of the experience of flipping through shelter magazines, relaxing with home improvement television on or scrolling social media and looking at other people’s houses. There is a benefit to this and we’re going to talk about it next week. For now, though, you’ll find all that you need at mid mod dashboards.com/ 1612 See you next week, folks.

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